Better & Bolder the Blog

this moment here


Two doors down from our house, Vida Verde has one of its farms. Whenever I buy vegetables from Vida Verde, whether at the farmers’ market or La Montanita, I imagine maybe this came from the farm next door. That’s eating local, right there.

Another neighbor, Leo, has a llama. This is because llamas, apparently, are good at herding sheep and goats, and he’s got a lot of those. Sometimes, driving down my street, I have to stop to shoo the sheep off the road so I can drive by. Yesterday, I saw the whole flock of sheep running, dirt flying up in clouds, the llama on their tail.

Sometimes the llama likes to go on walkabouts. He always heads north, perhaps because a pair of llamas (one chocolate, one beige) live a few houses to the south. This morning, I looked out my window to see Leo’s llama running past, hurrying back home. I laughed out loud. This is Valley living.

And so is this: last night, our dog Zee began barking wildly, the kind of mad bark she makes when she hears someone at the door. I heard my husband Hugh talking to someone.  I went downstairs to find Hugh letting in a young man, someone we don’t know.

He was being chased, he said, by some guys with guns. They’d fired some shots. He’d jumped our fence and prayed someone would open the door.

Yes, he knew who they were and why they were after him. No, he couldn’t call the police.

There was nothing to do but make him a cup of hot chocolate while he called his mom to come pick him up. When his mom said no, he asked his sister to come get him and told her to be “really, really careful.”

He left 10 minutes later, though Zee remained on alert, barking at every noise until finally she settled, snuggled on the couch between me and Hugh.

That’s Valley living, too, the stranger at the door, Hugh inviting him in. I had a little bit of worry – what if the men who came after him keep coming, right into our house?

He was probably about the age of our own kids, and, really, there’s nothing else to do but help. Still – what happens next for him? I had no advice, no place or person I could recommend he go to next. He’d pissed off the wrong people. I’m not sure he was going to talk himself out of this one. Or maybe he would, once daylight came again, and everyone calmed down, and somehow everyone got whatever they wanted.

November is the month of gratitude, though most of us know it’s the biggest happiness maker year-round. Arthur Brooks in “Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier” explains how it’s relatively easy to be thankful for the big stuff, such as a healthy family and a home.

It’s the little things, though - - the wonder and gratitude we bring to the small stuff – that powers much of our happiness. Brooks writes we can, “be grateful for useless things.”  

For me, that’s a llama running by my kitchen window. My husband opening our door to someone in trouble. The particular slant of morning sunlight on the sheep gathered under a cottonwood.

Those aren’t useless at all. Those are the bits of my life that are specific and present. Temporary, even fleeting. I catch them with my heart. I eat them and savor them, feeling the power of my beautiful and blessed daily life.

This is available to all of us, and it binds us all in common humanity, with our common needs, common flaws, common fears, and common graces. We are born to commune with others. Our gratitude reminds us of this vitality: our connection to our community and our connection to this very moment in our lives.