A Season of Gratitude


It started Thursday with the Winter Solstice and the full moon:  the love, the presents, my astonishment.  You cannot go wrong with moonlight hanging over a canyon.  It never disappoints.

Then on Friday, astonishment.  Teachers never expect what I received.  I expect excellence and hope most learn something new, learn that books they will like exist, that they can do more than they ever dreamed.  We do not expect presents.

By ten on Friday, my classroom was covered with gifts and food.  Here is a list of some of the presents I received from my students:

frankincense and myrrh soap

a book about wine–yes, it seems they know me

a 4 by 4 black block that says Love, Smile, Enjoy, Laugh, Sing, Live

two gifts cards from a brother and sister for renting movies along with popcorn

a Picasso scarf

a thermal cup full of almonds–I received lots of almonds

all sorts of homemade candies, cookies, and other goodies

To top it all off, a mother walked into my room and handed me a bottle of red wine with this written on it:  “Our child might be the reason you drink so enjoy this bottle on us, Merry Christmas.”  I am still chuckling about this one.

My daughter and grandson are on a cruise and will get to see several ancient Mayan temples, my son is on his way here and will arrive around noon or early afternoon, I attended a beautiful Christmas Eve service last night, then came home and continued reading a fascinating book until late, and shortly I will make pumpkin bread using Mom’s old recipe.

The moon still shines, hanging in the Western horizon.  I feel grateful.

Happy Holidays to everyone.

Juliana

 

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Note:  The Christmas tree my parents gave me decades ago with a skirt, simple fabric brought from Africa many years ago.

 

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A Litany of Thanks


I heard this poem by Max Coots recited on Sunday and saved it to share today.

 

Let us give thanks:

 

For generous friends…with hearts…and smiles as bright as their blossoms;

For feisty friends as tart as apples;

For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us we’ve had them;

For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;

For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, plain as potatoes and as good for you;

For funny friends, who are a silly as Brussel spouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;

For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;

For old friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;

And, finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life hereafter.

For all these we give thanks.

 

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A Tribute to My Dad, Doyle Lightle


Dad lived his entire life, 90 years, on the farm which my great grandfather, Gottlieb Werth, homesteaded in the middle 1800s.  Gottlieb Werth came to the United States from Switzerland when he was 18.  Even though Dad lived in the same place all his life, he liked road trips.  The first occurred when I was three.  He drove us all the way from Northwest Missouri to Monterey, Mexico.  I still have photos of us wading in the Gulf in Texas before we crossed into Mexico.  Thereafter, we almost never missed at least one road trip a year between wheat harvest and the start of school.  Sometimes instead of a summer trip we took one around Christmas, like the year we went to Florida when I was in elementary school.  I skipped school a couple of weeks, took my work along, and came home ahead because the flu, which I missed, put everything behind.

By the time I was six, I had probably covered half the continental United States and, of course, been to Mexico.  I do not remember some of those first trips but the later ones I remember well, like the summer we spent in Crested Butte, Colorado, when it was still a mining town, and another in Placerville, Colorado, down the road from Telluride.  Then it was just a nowhere place, filled with the Victorian houses of its mining heyday.  Dad joked later that he should have bought one of those houses when it was cheap.

One year, the year between my junior and senior year in high school, we took a one month trip and drove 6,000 miles, from home to the Black Hills, where we had relatives, to Vancouver, to Vancouver Island and then to Victoria.  We visited every national park along the way,  Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympic, then drove up the Columbia and cut back across Rocky Mountain National Park and through Colorado. On an earlier trip we went to every park in Utah and Northern Arizona and Mesa Verde.

Dad’s interest in and curiosity about everything seemed endless.  He tried the latest agricultural methods in his farming, was an avid conservationist, wanted to check everything out on these trips, talked to people about what they were doing.  At home he read National Geographic and Scientific American and endless books.

Because of these trips, his sense of wonder, his propensity for intellectual activity, my friends in college were always shocked to find out he was a farmer.  They often thought, originally, that he was a college professor.

He moved into this house where I grew up when he was ten.  After Mom died, Dad and I were at her grave on Memorial Day when a man came up and starting talking with Dad.  I learned that the building in the foreground of this photo, before it was used for livestock and storage, was used for dancing during the Depression. The sheriff would send out deputies to make sure no illegal alcohol was consumed. I took this photo four years ago when I took a trip back.

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There used to be woods to the right of this photo but someone bought the land and bulldozed down all the huge oak trees.  The tall douglas fir tree in the middle was tiny when we brought it home on one of our trips out West.

I will forever be thankful to Dad for instilling in me a love of exploration, wonder, and curiosity.

 

 

Grateful


Six days ago a huge storm struck, including eight inches of hail, a rain deluge, and high winds.  While the hail denuded many plants and bushes, the deluge made my drive a mess.

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Although it may be hard to determine the depth of the gravel and dirt and rocks from this photo, many of the rocks are bigger than the size of the fists of both my hands together, large enough to not want car tires to drive over them.  The gravel and dirt on the far side of the photo were at least eight inches deep.  Luckily I have a small tractor with a bucket and a helpful grandson.  He picked up the larger rocks and hauled all of them to the ditch created either side of the steep incline above the cement.  The rain had created a trench a foot deep in some places and exposed a pipe to the septic system. He filled parts of these trenches with the bigger rocks.

The next morning I used the tractor bucket to scoop up dirt and rocks and haul them to washed out places in the upper drive.  It was impossible to get it all with the bucket given some of the space is not very big or where it was possible to maneuver the tractor.  Therefore, I had to scoop it up and remove it with a shovel.  It took several tractor buckets full to get rid of what I had to shovel.  Finally, this morning I finished sweeping the rest of the fine sandstone off the cement.

After all this, why am I grateful?  There was no damage to my house.  The hail broke windows in some houses not far away, the wind blew light weight buildings into neighbors’ yards, and some people nearby had roof damage. I only have some tiny damage to the barn roof.  It could have been a lot worse.  I feel grateful to have escaped with just a messed up driveway.

Why do I feel even more grateful?  It occurred to me that I was able to clean up most of this except for my grandson’s help with the rocks–which I could have done but it was helpful.  I can still shovel gravel and dirt, a lot of it, lift and carry 50 pounds of horse feed from the vehicle across the barn–about 40 ft or more–and dump it in the container. I can work for hours doing this sort of stuff and feel fine afterwards. Yes, I feel grateful that I can continue to do all these things myself and what is more, usually enjoy doing them, feeling productive and independent.

When people ask me how I do all this, I usually tell them two things, yoga (as well as lots of other exercise mandatory if you live in the country and have animals) and heathy food.  My yoga practice began decades ago; I never stopped.  I practice it at least three times a week, sometimes more.  I stand on my head in the middle of the room several times a week.  My favorite foods are mostly vegetables.  The only carb I really like is rice. One of my dad’s sayings was, “You are what you eat.”  He still ran a farm at 90.  Yes, I admit, genes probably help, but without the exercise and self discipline, it probably is not enough.  I also meditate daily which does not require lots of time unless you want to spend lots of time doing it.  Even 15-30 minutes a day matter.  Exercise, yoga, healthy eating, meditating will all make for a happier person.  I promise.

 

A Week of Gratitude (cont.)


Although I intend to continue with gratitude thoughts and lists, this is my last post of this one week exercise.

Saturday’s list includes:

-Cooking for and enjoying the company of close friends.

-Listening to music I love–Angelique Kidjo, Rokia Traore, Cesaria Evora, Conjunto Primavera.

Sunday’s list includes:

-Enjoying springlike weather with birds singing.

-Accomplishing spring cleaning in my xeriscape flower beds.

-Trying a Japanese sauce I never tasted before–yakiniku.  I used it with chicken and bok choy over Jasmine rice.  This included marinating grated carrots in mirin, another Japanese sauce which I especially like.

-Watching a deer disappear through the junipers.

-Enjoying the warm weather from my patio.

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A Week of Gratitude (cont.)


Each day I made a list of things for which I feel grateful, sometimes more, sometimes less.  Tuesday’s list includes:

-Endless sunsets streaked with orange, vermillion, purple, lavender and colors with no name.

-An ability to sing the world’s greatest chorale music with a group of experienced singers who even occasionally sings with the symphony.

Wednesday’s list includes:

-Books I love.  My favorite is “Storyteller” by Leslie Marmon Silko.  I must have read her story “Yellow Woman” at least 50 times.

-The ability to write myself.  I entered a flash memoir contest on Wednesday.

Today’s list includes:

-A short but fun experience with my grandson whom I picked up at school.  He told me all about what he is learning in science class–he is in seventh grade.  We discussed genetics and Punnett Squares.  I recently explained them to some high school biology students.

-Driving my tractor, grading the steep drive down to my cliffside house.  I grew up on a farm and love driving the tractor.

-Cooking dinner.  Here’s the recipe:

Fillet of salmon–keta

4-5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 poblano pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/2 medium beetroot, thinly sliced and then diced

Bebere to taste or other spice if you do not have this

Several bunches kale, spine removed, and coarsely chopped.  I used two kinds–one green and one purple.

Saute the garlic and beetroot in olive oil until nearly cooked.  Add the poblano pepper and salmon.  Sprinkle a coating of bebere to cover the salmon.  Saute until salmon is nearly done and pepper is cooked but still bright green.  Add kale, occasionally stir, and saute until kale is slightly wilted. Serve over rice.  I used basmati from Pakistan.

Note:  bebere is a spice from Ethiopia.  I use homemade from my Ethiopian friends who have it special made.  Her blend is complex but not very hot.  Some commercial blends are mostly hot.

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A Week of Gratitude


Negatives emerged lately in my life,  the events in the last two posts, two good friends with health issues and a lot of pain.  Nevertheless, yesterday, I started thinking of so many things for which I feel grateful.  Then I said to myself, I am going to work on a week of gratitude, a week where everyday I make a list of things for which I feel grateful.  Out of years of habit, I make a mental gratitude list every night as I drift off to sleep.  This is more formal, a list I write down.

Yesterday’s list includes these:

-pure water from a deep well

-healthy food I cook myself

-children who live good, productive lives

-my own good health

Today’s list includes:

-a job I really enjoy in spite of paper grading tasks

-students who make me laugh and tell me they love me–who knows whether they mean it and honestly it’s ok either way

-outside chores, e.g feeding horses morning and evening.  I cannot imagine life without this even when it is cold and miserable

-singing–after I post this, I will head to my weekly chorale practice.  Currently, we are singing all these touching songs, poems by Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda put to music.

-taxes–crazy, I know.  I recall someone once telling me he was happy to pay taxes because it meant he was making decent money and was not poor.

 

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Gratitude


Thanksgiving brings so many thoughts, including thoughts about the divisive political discourse in the country now.  However, it seems more productive and in keeping with the day to focus on gratitude.  As I write this I think of both personal and broader things for which I am grateful, one of which is that I live in a country where divisive political discourse can actually and legally occur.  Now to the more personal (even though I think the personal is political, I will not focus on that)–here is my starter list:

-my family–daugher, son, and grandson; daughter and grandson will join me shortly to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

-my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe which my grandson will help me prepare when he arrives; he says it is the only pumpkin pie he really likes.

-my job which I truly love–teaching public high school; my students frequently make my day.

-where I live in beauty truly on the Rim of Wonder.

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-my health

-my friends

-my ability to travel to all sorts of fascinating places

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-a life I love

 

Gratitude by Esther Nelson


Here in the USA I hear so much complaining even about trivia and so little gratitude. I have also come to realize that gender still defines so much, limits what girls in particular think they can accomplish; girls still try to, as this essay notes, “make nice”, often failing to accomplish all they can be. It remains remarkable and a puzzle, as this essay notes, how some people can rise above negative circumstances while it destroys others.

esther-nelsonI’ve been in the midst of moving for almost a year, yet am still not finished with that onerous task.  My youngest son and family recently moved into the place I’ve called home since 1980.  I bought a small house in the vicinity and have just settled in after spending four months painting, cleaning, and hauling box after box to my new dwelling.  At the same time, I’ve been traveling back and forth to New Mexico busy with painting, cleaning, and remodeling my “retirement house.”

I’m tired.  Am also experiencing emotions that I thought I was impervious to.  I never perceived myself as somebody having an attachment to place, but a month or so before moving out of my old home, I began to feel nostalgic.  There was so much I didn’t want to leave behind–the woods, birds nesting in bushes around the property as well as on top of…

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Water Messages


In the process of conducting research for another poetry book, I came across this information.  Dr. Masaru Emoto authored “The Hidden Messages in Water”.  This is a quote of his from a book by Doreen Virtue:  “Both love and gratitude together are very powerful, and the union of both vibrations creates the best and most beautiful crystals.  I believe that H2O stands for two parts gratitude and one part love.  This is the most powerful formula of all.”

When water was shown a photo of a dolphin, the crystals changed.  In the middle of the crystals was a shape.  It looks like a photo of the pineal gland.  For some this is the shape behind the third eye.