Feast for Three

Cooper Birthday 12; KMHuberImageThanksgiving of 2012 I was mostly vegetarian, mostly Buddhist, completely wary of my every decision. Mostly was my middle ground I told myself but mostly is milquetoast, no matter where on the path.

If I could not see beyond the point of my own nose, a beagle named Cooper could. He was not fazed by my timidity, and to prove it, he gave me all the patience he had, often disguised as curiosity.

Dogs love unconditionally, and sometimes, we are fortunate enough to have a dog fall in love with us, which is to say we fall as well. I did, he did, and for two years, we were.

Regular readers may remember some of our moments. I often do but every Thanksgiving since 2012, I take a moment to be grateful for Cooper.

Maybe what I remember most is the angst of being almost vegetarian, unable to understand the obstacle is the path, and I was on it.

I meditated about buying a turkey. Can you imagine? Me, either. Groundlessness–impermanence–was new to me but through Cooper, I opened to change.

It is a heady combination: canine love, meditation, and yoga. It becomes a practice, a path of one obstacle after another. Some more easily resolved, like purchasing a turkey for Thanksgiving.

It was not about me–never had been–it was about Cooper. Love can blind that way–I’m grateful every time it does–each moment comes only once. It was Cooper’s last Thanksgiving, and we made a day of it.

Feline EmmaRose was just as delighted with turkey. I remembered that for her remaining years with me, our years together without Cooper.

I have not forgotten our feast for three nor have I set such a banquet again. Its heady aroma returns every Thanksgiving for love never leaves.

2012 was yet another year that some believed the world would end, as if existence is a day on a calendar. One day or forever. How are they any different.

An Unconditional Life for all Seasons: A Remembrance

Cooper Birthday 12; KMHuberImageAutumn is my favorite time of year, and when Thanksgiving is all but-on-the-doorstep of December, I begin my review of the year in preparation for a final toast on December 31.

This time in-between, for me, is one of reflection, a time of note writing or even a phone call just to say, “I am thinking of you.” Being thoughtful and having compassion for all sentient beings is peace on earth regardless of the season.

I remind myself of that every year but this year, the memory of Thanksgiving of 2012 with beagle Cooper James loomed large. Longtime readers of this blog may remember our adventures together.

Mine is a mostly vegetarian home for I am mostly Buddhist. Yet, in 2012, I could not let go of the thought—even through meditation—that I needed to purchase a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving.

As is often the way with these nagging thoughts, it was not about a mostly vegetarian/Buddhist human purchasing a turkey. It was about canine Cooper being on turkey watch, his personal aroma therapy.

It would take me two years to make the connection.

Cooper was curious about life, always willing to explore, yet he had a respect for boundaries, especially when it came to human food. He had learned treats come from behavior that humans like.

He was a master of canine kitchen behavior; always, he waited until I left the room. I was grateful for the way Cooper kept the floor clean–I hated sweeping and mopping floors more than any other chores–Cooper seemed born to both.

Thus, Cooper on turkey watch was at a respectable distance from the oven door but in full view of every possible Cooper James; KMHuberImageangle of the kitchen. He quickly mastered the timing of turkey basting. His low, beagle keen was within minutes of the timer’s announcement.

From afar, he watched in complete contentment as I basted the turkey. It was as if he loved the aroma of anticipation as much as the turkey he knew would come his way. Cooper was in the moment, and it was one of his best.

Food was Cooper’s first love. I never minded playing second fiddle. He was not greedy in the way he ate or how much he consumed. For a beagle, he was remarkably patient.

He simply got through moments as they were presented to him, no matter how familiar or beloved the scent. He met each one as if it were for the first time. He lived with an enthusiasm I have not met again.

KMHuberimage; larch in autumnThe aroma of life is heady in itself for life is a banquet, and we need not starve ourselves with conditions or certain ways to partake of it. It need not always be set up like a Thanksgiving dinner eaten off plates used once a year.

The zest of life is in each new moment we have, whether it is the aroma or the actual bite of turkey, there need not be conditions or expectations.  We need merely experience the joy of the moment.

Cooper had an unconditional love for living life unconditionally. I do my best to remember this on all the days of these years I live without him.

His last Thanksgiving was that November 22, 2012, the year that some believed the world would never begin as all others had. As an ever-present, sentient being, one day or forever were the same to Cooper. His presence on this planet ended on the last day of 2012.

I do think of Cooper on New Year’s Eve but it is on Thanksgiving that the heady scent of Cooper’s memory wafts through my mind. And yes, there is the aroma of roasting turkey.

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A Kindness Note for All Seasons: The awesome August McLaughlin is hosting the first #SparkleFriday kindness event on November 28, Black Friday. Check out her blog post or RSVP the Facebook event page.

 

And Then, You’re There

Maybe a milestone is easy for me to miss, which seems contradictory, as I hold it in high regard, a true moment of significant development. Yet, such a moment did occur this past Thursday but it was not until Black Friday that I noticed.

Like many Americans who gave thanks this past week, I have food allergies/sensitivities that require some adjustment to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey meal: stuffing made with gluten/yeast free bread, organic apples and freshly ground sausage; organic sweet potatoes, green beans, and cranberries; no salt, no refined sugar.

When I woke up on Black Friday feeling not only fine but wonderful, I became suspicious. I had been careful with my meal preparation and ingredients yet I anticipated a bit of a reaction to the amount of carbohydrates I had consumed. There was none. 

Thus, it may have dawned as a Black Friday like any other–I am not given to participating in the holiday season gift frenzy—but it became  the day I realized that 26 months of fastidious eating habits had finally returned my digestive system to a state it has not known in decades: harmony.

When I first began eating gluten, yeast, dairy, soy, and sugar-free in August, 2010, I learned as I ate, which I soon discovered meant being precise in my eating and foregoing a lifelong habit of eating to please any particular craving that appeared. On Black Friday, 2012, I reaped the rewards of overcoming carbohydrate cravings, giving myself and my taste buds a new life.

New life is not really an exaggeration for I left behind all I had known—my well-worn, conditioned ways of living–for the freedom of the unknown–shed of past and future in favor of the present—a path that unfolds only moment by moment. Here, I trust my heart over my head–there isn’t room or need for any baggage–an open heart travels light.

In the early days, there are sugar cravings in as many forms as there are thoughts: a very dry, vodka martini shaken so hard that slivers of ice float on its surface evaporates into a cheese-dripping, twice-baked potato melting into a milk chocolate fondue for pound cake and strawberries. They are mirage, part and parcel of the past, ultimately powerless in the realm of the present.

In 26 months, the past has had its way with me. Sometimes, rather than giving into the image, I tried a “substitute,” seeking sugar in all the wrong places, always sorry the next morning and often, sooner. The taste of sugar always seemed just beyond me until I stopped reaching into the past. The last time I ate ice cream, I felt as if I were eating raw sugar from a sugar bowl. For the rest of the day, I could not brush my teeth enough, and the next morning, I had a hangover.


So, being able to eat apples, bread stuffing, cranberries, and sweet potatoes in one meal without an immediate or delayed reaction is a milestone. And, I have continued to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers without any reaction, without any weight increase. In fact, for over a year, I have maintained a 50+ pound weight loss and for the last six months, my total loss has stayed right at 68-69 pounds.

My constant companion on this path has been steady weight loss, from the first day 26 months ago. Of course, my forays into the dark side of sugar always resulted in some kind of temporary weight gain but for the first time in my life, losing weight was not an effort.

My exercise is modest–mostly walking–although yoga is now playing a more active role. And while I would not have thought it possible, I truly enjoy eating a varied regimen of green, leafy and low carbohydrate vegetables, a few legumes, nuts/nut butters, infrequent fish/poultry, almond milk and now, some fruit.

Most of the digestive system resources are quite imprecise on how long it may take to return to what I call digestive harmony. Occasionally, however, I found this general guideline: it takes one month for every year the digestive system has been out of balance. In my case, 26 years of digestive disharmony is plausible, but more than anything, it is baggage from the past best left leaning against the Black Friday milestone. Soon, none of it will even be a thought.