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Awe

I have a lot of tender, lovely wildflower photos to share, but I can’t get this out of my head. Kilauea is erupting again, and I’m grateful to a friend in Hawaii who sent me this link to the USGS livestream. I’ve been checking in on it every now and then the past two days, and when I do I can hardly tear my eyes away. It’s mesmerizing to watch the volcano burble and sputter and flow, and fascinating to see how the scene changes through the course of the day. The camera zooms in and out at periodically, and this evening someone is having a great time focusing on various features. Here are a few screenshots since I tuned in tonight.

I’m grateful for the awe inspired by witnessing the molten rock heaving at the surface of this amazing living planet, and for the mind-boggling technology that makes it possible to watch a live volcano half a world away. You can scroll along the timeline at the bottom of the video to view a time-lapse of lava flow, cloud shadows, and sunset, or stop anywhere along it to view the past twelve hours, and then click ‘Live’ to jump right back to the present moment.

Goldfinches

It’s a bird week. Today I’m grateful for the so-called Lesser Goldfinch pair I heard tweeting in the trees a couple of days ago, and caught on camera today eating seeds from the catmint. Honey Badger has had them in her catmint next door for a few years, but this is the first I’ve been privileged to see them here. Above, I capture her through the window cracking a seed; below, he looks alertly at me trying to sneak up on him outside. What’s lesser about them, I’d like to know.

It was dusk, and I couldn’t get close; he took off a second after spotting me. So they’re fuzzy images, but serve to document the delight, and signify the promise of more happy finches to come.

Nesting Phoebes

I’m so grateful today for the happily nesting phoebes. She’s been sitting for three days. I haven’t wanted to aim the big camera at her because of its noise, and the phone camera won’t capture her in the shadows under the deck. So I sat outside reading for a few hours today to acclimate them to my presence, and every now and then fired off a few shots with the husband-camera aimed elsewhere, before sneaking a few of her. By the time their chicks hatch in a couple of weeks (or less!) mom and pop won’t even blink at this paparazzo, and the chicks will grow up preening for the lens.

Out and About

I visited a few friends across the mesa today, a big step for me seeing more than one live person in a day much less in a week. I’m grateful for getting out and about. The fields everywhere are knee-high and green; it will be a banner year for the ranchers, and it’s an extraordinary sight. Other fine sights today were the sandhill cranes and their chicks in Garden Buddy’s field, though as soon as I slowed the car to take some pictures the parents shooed the chicks down into the grass. I’ll try again in a few days.

I enjoyed birds and beverages all day at various places, a lovely sparkling water on the west end of the mesa connecting with friends who are moving shortly and who also have nesting phoebes; then iced tea and cookies next door, where these magpies are nesting right next to the house. Back home, after sitting outside for a meditative evening desensitizing my phoebes to my presence on their patio, I came inside to enjoy a raspberrytini. I rolled the glass rim in the last of the homemade raspberry syrup then in Demerara sugar, and mixed the gin with sweet vermouth, garnished of course with fresh raspberries. I’m grateful as always for savoring the simple pleasures; for cultivating contentment rather than discontentment.

Native Bees

Last week before the lilacs began to fade, I caught this lovely big Bombus nevadensis (I think) enjoying the blossoms.

I’m grateful to have captured some native bees today, and this one above last week, with the husband-camera. It’s been awhile since I’ve spent much time with either, in part because of the dearth of native bees in the yard for the past few years, which has made me too sad to go out and chase them. But there were so many bees on the perennial onion blooms this morning that I felt inspired to get out the big camera, and grateful to attend to them.

It was busy on the onions this morning, which is one reason I love these amazing plants that just keep on going, and seeding profusely every year. Above, a mining bee (genus Andrena), and below, what I think is Bombus huntii.

Above, another Bombus nevadensis, if I’m not mistaken, and the bright black spot on her back suggests a female. There were also a few honeybees, a small butterfly, and a digger bee among the onion flowers, but I didn’t get good enough pictures to share. Then with the last few images available on the camera, I attended to the pink honeysuckle, which was buzzing with honeybees. This one was being carefully watched by someone besides me…

Gifts from Far and Near

I’m grateful to Cousin Melinda for thinking of me as she traveled to the rose capital of France, and brought me back a jar of rose petal jam. It seemed the perfect complement to a lilac blossom scone, and so I took half an hour to make and eat an extremely special breakfast including a vanilla latté on this cold, damp morning. Every step of the way, I practiced gratitude for each element, each gift from far and near.

So simple, so delicious: making time to make breakfast special.

More gifts on this one precious day that will never come again, the first scarlet gilia blooming in the woods, along with other wildflowers. And then a short rest on a bench with a small dog looming over me…

… and time in the garden this evening with arugula, peas, onions, and scarlet salvia, appreciating fresh snowfall on the mountains, a cat in the lettuce, and a dinner harvest. I am truly grateful for the simple gifts of the simple life I’ve created, and for all the support from generations of known and unknown people who helped me make it.

My Little Town

I’m grateful that my scheme for luring the phoebes to nest here again may have worked. They continue to slowly work on construction and I can see the nest rising on the platform. This is the old nest, which I left fully formed in this bowl at the edge of the patio: in the past week they’ve reduced it to a pile of fluff and pilfered some choice bits for the new nest. The rest will go into the compost once she’s sitting on eggs.

It’s not my town, I don’t own it or even live in it, but it’s the closest town to where I live. At one point in history it was a thriving center for people moving from various points east to colonize these river valleys, and has been settled by immigrants since the late 1800s after booting out the native Ute peoples. I’m sad about the brutal history. And, I can’t take responsibility for it; but I can point out that all the white folks who live here now are descended from immigrants from foreign countries, and I hope that they remember that.

Anyhoo… I moved here thirty years ago from my roots in centuries of Irish-English immigrants back east, and I was seeking the leading edge of peace in some ways just as they may have been. The oppressions I fled were different from theirs, indeed of their making, but perhaps my motivation was similar. I wanted space and freedom, and because this is America I was able to find that. To some extent.

It’s taken a decades long practice of meditation and mindfulness to fully realize how completely the true heart of peace comes from within each of us, not from external circumstances. I’m grateful for recognizing and beginning to live in this truth before I give up the ghost one day. And I’m grateful for my little town that provides almost every amenity I need to enjoy my share of inner and outer peace.

First, there’s community. Like me, most of my ‘clan’ live outside of town, but we all live around its nucleus. There are also gas, essential groceries, a bank, post office, coffee shop, and a rotation of various gift and souvenir shops; and then there’s the Hitching Post. This morning, I had some errands to run, including bank, post office, and buying a high quality soil amendment to beef up the remaining unplanted garden beds.

I thought I was going to have to drive twenty miles to one of the ‘big’ towns that make up our triangle of villages, but stopped in at the little farm store that ever since I’ve lived here always seems to have at least one of whatever I need in a pinch. Sure enough, they carry Ocean Forest organic soil amendment. So I loaded up the trunk with that and some steer manure compost, and gratefully drove the four miles home before the afternoon squall rolled in. I look forward to a productive and peaceful day in the garden tomorrow.

Lilac Blossom Scones

A trick I learned for flakier pastry is to grate cold butter and then freeze it while you mix the rest of the ingredients…
… or harvest them as the case may be…

The lilacs are winding down. It’s been a bountiful year for them, and I’m sad that I didn’t get to bake with them until just now. But I’m grateful that they were so prolific, and fed the pollinators for the past few weeks, and had plenty of flowers to share with me, too.

And when everything else is ready, add the grated butter to the whisked mixture of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, tossing until each sliver of butter is coated and then kneading together just a little bit.

Then I added the wet ingredients and mixed just a little, before tipping the mess onto the cutting board and kneading by hand until it just formed into a dough. There was so much I split it in half to knead each half into a log I could cut in pieces.

I pressed each portion into a segment of the sprayed ceramic scone pan…
…baked to perfection…

After cooling in the pan for ten minutes, I tipped them out and they fell apart at the seams, a desirable outcome in this case. Then I flipped them over to further cool, and promptly ate one with my last cup of coffee. I’m grateful that I had the time and the lilacs and the pan and everything else I needed to bake these delicious lilac-almond scones this morning, and then got to share them with my Personal Shopper, who delivered supplies to replenish the pantry.

Another Old Friend

I’m grateful for living with a tortoise. Biko is about 23 years old. I got him when he was one, but I just don’t remember exactly which year I got him from a zoo where he was captive hatched. He’s a leopard tortoise, a species native to South Africa, who semi-hibernates inside over winter, but free ranges through the yarden all summer.

Biko is the last of three tortoises that have lived here. One got too big and I hurt my back lifting him: He found a good home in Florida. The second one took a ten-day unauthorized journey and was found, but didn’t survive that winter for unknown reasons possibly having something to do with his autumnal misadventure.

Wren a few days ago chewing her treat after finding Biko tucked under the sagebrush behind her.

For as long as I’ve had tortoises, I’ve had dogs trained to find them at the end of the day. It’s essential in spring and fall, when it’s too cold overnight to leave them out. And it’s good practice in the summer, so the hunter doesn’t forget the job. It took Wren all of last summer to learn what I was asking her, but as soon as spring came and Biko was out again, she knew immediately what to do. The catahoulas used to bark when they found a tortoise. Wren sits down beside Biko wherever he is tucked in.

This evening we had a special guest, so we hunted Biko before heading to the canyon. He was still out foraging, and when Wren found him she sat down like a good girl for her reward. Biko just plowed right into her.

I’m especially grateful today for a short but deeply meaningful visit with another old friend who happens to be in the valley for a few days. She captured Wren’s heart as quickly and easily as she did mine all those years ago when she first smiled across the counter at Moonrise Espresso. It was pure delight to spend a few hours together on a gorgeous early-summer day with heartfelt conversation, laughter, and a few tears.

On our walk back from the canyon, I was grateful to see the claret cup cactus filling with buds.

Pollen

I’m grateful for the pollen packed on this bumblebee’s legs. It signifies a vibrant, healthy ecosystem somewhere in the midst of climate chaos; it represents resilience and survival of pollinators. I’m grateful for the bees of all ilks, and for these perennial onions just now opening their papery shells to feed so many native insects.