Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

day of Thanksgiving #15

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

Central heat. That’s today’s gratitude. Now, some folks may think that’s NOT an everyday kind of thing to be grateful for. But that’s my point — we use it every day in winter (those of us who are lucky enough to have it), and pretty much take it for granted. We set the thermostat — the fancy ones will even split the day for you — and forget about it.

Except that tomorrow it’s supposed to be 32 degrees for a HIGH. And 24 for the low. In case you’re a northener, and think that’s balmy, remember: in Oklahoma a single snowflake can cause a traffic accident…

So as I put away the groceries bought in anticipation of the hilly driveway being sheet ice (far more common than snow, in Oklahoma), I’m contemplating how lucky I am that I don’t live in my grandmother’s old sieve of a house. Where the window sills weren’t square, and the icy tendrils of winter crept in to catch you under the thin covers. Where the floor, and toilet seat were so freezing cold you flat didn’t put your tender toes on the one to walk to the other. At least not until the furnace was high again.

My life today is very different from when I was a child, and even more different from those of my elders. I have indoor plumbing, w/ running (HOT!) water. And that blessed engineering miracle: central heat. No matter how nostalgic people wax about standing over the furnace to warm up, let me tell you: central heat knocks that ball out of the park.

Look around you — it’s not a case of ‘it could be so much worse.’ Yes, I do that sometimes. But it always feels phony. Of COURSE it could get worse! Instead, look at what you have, gifts you perhaps have stopped noticing. Like… central heat. :) It’s a great joy to fall back in love with what is right before us. I recommend it.

day of Thanksgiving lucky number 13: broccoli (and Aunt Bonnie)

the author's

the author’s

I owe today to my Great-Aunt Bonnie. While she didn’t exactly teach me to cook, she certainly had a big part in teaching me to love food. I can’t remember a single meal she prepared (and there were many) that I didn’t love.

When I married, and left for the unknown wilds of Algeria, Aunt Bonnie insisted I take good knives and a real cookbook. Like many American girls of my generation, I’d been given a red&white chequered Better Homes & Gardens cookbook when I went to college.  Why, I have no idea, as there was no place to cook in the dorm I would call home for two years.

I took Joy of Cooking to Algiers, and was grateful every day that I had it. The first time I was handed a dead chicken, feathers-head-feet-innards-and-all, I went home, and in tears perused how to pluck, gut, and cut up a chicken.

the author's

the author’s

Note: the bile duct is NOT obvious. All of the instructions were in JoC, and boy did the knives prove their worth. I made chili, and chicken soup, and meat loaf, and potatoes and so many other things. Even the Algerian cuisine, like lamb tshorba, flavoured w/ cinnamon.

From then on, I cooked. The dumb freshman who set her beloved’s apartment on fire cooking blossomed into the wife who could make the catsup to make the bbq sauce for the chicken she now knew how to cut properly. Eventually, I could make anything in a cookbook, and phrases like ‘sweat the vegetables gently’ or ‘fold the butter in gently’ were as clear as mother tongue.

Today, nothing was that complex. A roast cooked gently for hours, so that the fat melted unctuously into the meat. A baked potato. Some fresh broccoli sautéed in olive oil, w/ a bit of garlic, salt, & pepper. That’s it. Just plain food. Aunt Bonnie would be proud. And if you subbed green beans for broccoli, it might well have been something from her stove. Even the roast was cooked in the cast iron skillet she used almost daily, for years.

the author's

the author’s

I’m grateful for her guidance, her modeling, the cookbook, even the year of learning the hard way how to cook almost anything. Do I bother these days? Rarely. But there’s something very comforting about knowing I can make what I need to — from a plain roast perfectly seasoned & braised, to a pumpkin pie. After all, the season of home cooking is upon us.

Thanks, Aunt Bonnie. I’m grateful for you most of all — for years my everyday fairy godmother. The only way you would ever make it into a list of everyday blessings.


day of Thanksgiving #12: temper, temper

via wikicommons

via wikicommons

It may not seem like an everyday gratitude, but it is, if you think about it. Anger, I mean. It’s useful as both a gauge and a valve, obviously — letting you know when things are past your comfort zone. But also serving as a release for pent-up feelings of more complexity (inadequacy, taken-advantage-of, manipulated, etc.).

Today, when someone hurt my feelings, I reacted. Strongly. Explained my feelings were hurt, and why. And although I initially felt a bit bad — I don’t think it was intentional, at all — I also felt grateful that I can voice my feelings.

Many folks can’t, and/or just don’t. They sit on anger until it eats away at them, or until it blows up waaay out of proportion to the trigger. Which is NOT a good thing, for anyone.

I’m also grateful that I’m beginning to learn just how to voice anger — gently (except I don’t, always… :( ). With compassion and careful statement of what happened. In my mad youth, I would just blow up. Yell, cry, sometimes even throw things (not often, but it has been known to happen). Which accomplishes zip, nada, rien.

via wikicommons

via wikicommons

Nothing, in other words.

So this is a nod of gratefulness to the anger fairy. Thank you for teaching me (the hard way, and time after time of hard ways!) to catch my breath — even if I have to walk into another room, or let things slide for a bit. To articulate clearly (to myself, first of all) what’s angering me. And to be able to sift beneath the brightly coloured leaves of anger to the ground below. AKA what’s really wrong.

Here’s a suggestion: next time you get really mad, try to figure out the why of it. Yes, your beloved never folds the laundry. Is this really a big deal? Or is it emblematic of how you feel put upon, and taken for granted. Then sit down — calmly! — and share. I guarantee you’ll see why I think it’s something to be grateful for, anger.

And we haven’t even touched on righteous anger at injustice! Let’s save that for another day… :)

month of Thanksgiving #11: tea and chocolate

the author's

the author’s

This was my dessert today, which is just the kind of ordinary gratitude I love. BUT… It also was FREE! Another everyday gratitude. AND it was eaten across the table from my smart, funny, pregnant niece (to distinguish her from my other smart & funny nieces… :) )

It’s a Mexican chocolate petit four, and it was absolutely decadent. Just a petite bouchée, literally a mouthful. Perfect after an ENTIRE POT of tea (Golden Moon’s madagascar vanilla, a total departure for me, as I usually don’t do flavoured teas). Not to mention the chicken salad, or the tomato parmesan soup…

I wonder: does food really taste better when shared w/ people you love? Or is that just our social animal nature bleeding through? We are pack animals, after all: small shrewdnesses of apes scattered across the world, gathering over food. And I know that offering my niece a sip of my tea — she doesn’t drink caffeine these days — was as much fun as drinking it myself. Really.

Last night I sat around the table w/ old friends & colleagues. Two of us go back almost 20 years, but all are very dear to me. We broke homemade bread together, stirred homemade soup, and eventually dunked homemade biscotti into cups of hot tea or glasses of wine (yes — you read that right: it’s an Italian thing). And the meeting went both more quickly and more happily, centred as it was on what connects us.

the author's

the author’s

Someone asked me recently what these posts on everyday gratitude have to do w/ beginner’s heart. Everything! I thought. But I tried to explain more clearly: Our lives are rich w/ gifts we take for granted. And life around us can be stressful, leaving us feeling empty. Noticing, each day, where beauty hides, where goodness walk, where calm and comfort can be touched, is healing. And what heals each one of us works towards the happiness of us all.

So here’s today’s grateful appreciation: of sharing a table of good food & drink (tea qualifies!) with people you love. Everyday? Sure. But none the less appreciated for being familiar.

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