Archives

Animals

I am so grateful to live among animals, wild and domestic, large and small, feathered and furred. They give me belonging.

My tiny dog–he has seemed as big as a horse sometimes, but these days he feels smaller.
Hanging out in the shade for morning coffee.

Two Walks

Funny how our expectations and standards change as our conditions change. Stellar had a really good day, and got a long walk to the canyon this morning, and a medium walk around the sunset loop this evening. Some years ago, this wouldn’t have seemed like a big deal to me, but after the past year with him, and especially the past few months, it’s momentous. I’m grateful that he had the mobility for two walks today.

And in between Stellar’s two walk, there was a lot more to be grateful for, including a little bit of actual rain. Not more than a couple of minutes, but rain nonetheless; again, changing standards. In this climate induced drought, even a trace of rain and a cool breeze is something to celebrate. There may have been a rainbow, or trace of one, but it was time for me to come inside for … Zoom Cooking with Amy!

Tonight we cracked open the Gin Mayo she sent awhile ago, and put some in a spontaneous pimento-cheese. The main event was Bacon Jam. I never did hear tell of such a thing! We each made a different type of burger to try it on. She made a chicken burger, and I made a burger burrito because I didn’t have bread or buns. I formed the burger into a bratwurst shape and rolled it up inside a tortilla slathered with pimento cheese, bacon jam, and a handful of lettuce.

Each Day

Some days make me feel just as wide-eyed as these little dogs; in fact, most days do, practicing gratitude. I’m grateful today for the opportunity to do chihuahua for a little while; for clearing the air despite the smoke; for getting my hands on some chicks that are all named Dinner; for perspective on some of my less healthy habits; for connection with family and friends; and for the courage to open and play my dusty piano again after years.

I’m grateful that last night’s fireworks over the reservoir didn’t go rogue and cause a blaze, and that no one was stupid enough to celebrate Pioneer Days with home pyrotechnics; I’m grateful that wildfire smoke remains distant and we can still breathe here, albeit with extra sneezing, coughing, and just a hint of nose blood. I’m grateful for each day with breathable air, knowing that fire is certain this summer and location of fire uncertain. A new fire south of Salt Lake has consumed more than ten thousand acres in less than a day, and another four-day old fire near Moab exploded today. Seeing a sky like this evening’s reminds me not only of last summer’s horrendous smoke, but of the tragic summer of 1994, when the Wake Fire in our valley burnt three thousand acres in a couple of days; its impact was quickly eclipsed on its third day by the Storm King fire near Glenwood Springs that blew up and killed fourteen firefighters. Everything we hold dear is so tenuous.

Not only because of wildfire, of course, or the slow-moving catastrophe that is climate chaos, but because impermanence is the nature of all things. Our evening walk was especially poignant in the coppery glow of the smoky sunset: Not only from the oppressive weight of the big picture, but the looming loss of the very personal was readily apparent in dear Stellar’s feeble gait. We turned around before the first gate and he hobbled back in to his comfy bed for the night. I’m grateful for each day that we both wake up alive, and I don’t have to make that horrible decision to call his time. I’m grateful for the mindfulness practice that allows me to enjoy our remaining time together, to recognize that one bad day is often followed by a few good ones, and to accept the inevitable end of both our lives. I’m grateful for the inspiration and motivation that comes from knowing that “Death is certain, time of death uncertain.”

Silver Linings

I was grateful first thing (after sleeping in late) to see Bucky back! I’m glad he’s survived to get all grown up.
Grateful to see the first Sego lily this spring, though it looks sad and lonely in this parched clay…
… and even more grateful to see it has company! Some little creatures curled up sleeping in it for the night, awaiting sun’s warming rays to open their bed.
I’m grateful for this silly cat, who won’t jump on a lap to save her life, but will jump up on a bench and rub on my leg; grateful that she so often accompanies us on our rambles through the forest.
Grateful that the pond edge has eroded and the pond overgrown with reeds, so that when Stellar fell in again he didn’t go far. Grateful also that I saw it happen from afar as he was drinking after our morning walk, and was able to get in without falling myself, and help him out; grateful that he saw me coming, relaxed, and waited for me to extricate him.
Grateful for bumblebees, and for gorgeous nasturtiums to feed them.
Grateful for leftovers, and for corn tortillas to hold them, grateful for avocados and all the conditions and people across the miles that it takes to get a perfectly ripe avocado onto my ‘leftover’ taco. Grateful for homemade paprika, and for the little Yakuna savoy leaves I thinned from the patch of greens in the garden; grateful for soil and water and raised garden beds; grateful for cheese, and salmon, and beans and all the people and conditions it took to get them into my fridge and pantry; grateful for having a fridge and pantry, and the time to prepare a healthful meal. And grateful for the awareness to appreciate this lunch that will never be replicated exactly. So simple, so delicious!
Grateful that Stellar’s pond escapade didn’t hamper his ability to hunt for Biko this afternoon as the wind blew madly, and grateful for this lovely claret cup right in my own back yarden. (No, Biko isn’t in the picture, but if he were, you might not be able to recognize him anyway he is so well camouflaged. He’s under the sagebrush just beyond Stellar, who is waiting for his reward treats).
Grateful that this happened when it did, and not just a few minutes earlier. I rescued a hummingbird that got stunned hitting the south window (despite the prayer flags), and set her in a crook of this potted jade near the feeder to recuperate. I checked on her an hour later, and the tiny was perched on a limb; a few minutes later I looked again and she had flown away. A few minutes later from inside I heard CRASH! The mighty, capricious wind had blown the tree down.
And then, for a brief moment, I was deliriously grateful for rain… but this is as much as we got.

Witnessing

I’m grateful today for witnessing so many facets of the miracle of life. The phoebe babies are big enough to peek over the edge of the nest, and I was stunned to see four yellow mouths instead of three. I watched off and on today as their parents flew more or less nonstop back and forth bringing bugs. The chicks would wake squeaking until one was fed, then their fragile little forms would droop back into sleep, their heads sometimes draped over the edge like the one in back. The central chick is stretching its delicate feathering wing.

Witnessing the many buds of the trail cactus blooming at last.
Stellar the Stardog says Which way? I’m so grateful for this face!
Stellar the Stardog contemplates cliff swallows swooping through the canyon in the early morning. Or something. Witnessing the inevitable impermanence of each life, of this precious life, with tender equanimity. I’m grateful that after his slump last week he’s got stamina again for a good morning walk, and can still stand up in the evening.

Quail Eggs

I stopped into Farm Runners last Saturday to pick up some mushrooms, they have lovely fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Nearby in the cooler were a few packs of quail eggs. Quail eggs! Never have I ever. So I grabbed (carefully) a package, knowing I’d come up with something to do with them for Boyz Lunch.

A dear friend ended up coming by on Monday so I made her a burrito with smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and mushrooms, with fresh wild asparagus on the side, and tested the timing for a soft-boiled quail egg. I’m grateful that Farm Runners also offers these 12-inch tortillas (a foot wide!), that I had Bad Dog Ranch happy-chicken eggs, homemade hot sauce, and that neighbor Mary gave me a big bunch of wild asparagus when I passed her out picking on my way to town. I’m grateful that Nancy came for lunch and a walk and a heartfelt talk, and let me experiment on her palate.

Quail egg perfectly soft-boiled, but very hard to peel! And different from chicken eggs, even the best: they taste so rich and buttery.

So for Boyz Lunch today, I boiled the remaining quail eggs (for two minutes), then scooped them into ice water to stop the cooking. A couple of them floated on top, and I recalled that with chicken eggs that means they might be bad, so I pulled those out early, and later fed them to Stellar, shells and all, after cracking them open: they smelled fine, and he was almost as ecstatic as Philip and John were when I served them this starter plate.

Mary Berry’s quail egg-salmon-asparagus salad with tarragon dressing. I’m grateful that tarragon grows in the garden, and that Amy found me this recipe the other night when I couldn’t search the internet myself; grateful that we can find a recipe for any combination of ingredients on hand with a few taps of the fingers on the miraculous world wide web. Grateful that my geezers were ecstatic with this starter dish, and the sirloin tips in mushroom gravy over rice that followed it…
…and that they also loved the brownie-shortbread dessert. Grateful that Amy sent me this recipe too, with the note “You need this!” I’m telling you, whoever you are, if you love chocolate, shortbread, or butter, you also need this recipe.

Above and beyond the culinary delights of this day, I’m grateful for good friends old and new, for great neighbors, for all the opportunities, connections, and experiences in this singular day that will never come again; grateful to have waked up alive, made the most of the day, and be heading to my cozy, clean bed right now.

Okay maybe not so clean, at least on the outside, but that’s not entirely my fault. At least the sheets underneath the blankets are clean. I’m sure grateful for this cuddly little cat, no matter how much she sheds or how many weed seeds she carries inside.
And always, always grateful for my sweet old man Stellar, who had another rough day today, but hope lives.

Tiny Dogs!

Stellar’s fantastic day began with a walk to the canyon, the medium-long way, his almost favorite route. He was so happy!
What does he hear that I don’t?

Stellar and I are both grateful today for an unexpected visit from the tiny dogs and their person. He hasn’t seen his main girlfriend Popis for a very long time, and she brought her new adopted sister Phoebe Snow Reno. (Her name is too big for her body.) He was beside himself with excitement, and now he’s unwakeably asleep. But even before that interlude, we were grateful for a good walk to the canyon on an early spring morning, greening trees, flowering shrubs, birdsong, and strong enough legs. Then we were grateful for a thrilling sensory discovery when we took an untried shortcut: a mammoth Fremont holly, far taller than I and at least twenty feet across. The flash of yellow caught my attention, but then the scent arrested my footsteps. I turned immediately toward it, inhaling deeply.

This massive old shrub was tangled in a juniper thicket: hard to know how they got so enmeshed but clearly it happened many years ago.
This was my first glimpse of this gorgeous creature next door, and then the heady, sweet aroma almost knocked me over. A few yards farther on I found a second one, much smaller, just beyond my lower gate. How have I never noticed that one before? These discoveries inspire me to search ‘my own’ woods for more, since they’ll be easy to find in full, fragrant bloom.

After a good morning rest for Stellar, and a few hours of work for me, the tiny dogs stopped by and gave us a break from our exertions. Stellar wore himself out, utterly distracted by and unable to focus with two of them to pay attention to. It was quite the interlude.

Tiny Dogs! – Official Trailer for the tender rom-com filmed on location today.

Remarkably, after another several-hours rest while I worked, Stellar had the stamina for a third walk. As we meandered home we discovered another natural treasure, a huge, perfectly circular, claret cup cactus that we’ve never passed before, the first in bloom I’ve seen this season. I’m grateful for all these quotidian wonders in a single day, not the least of which is that this old dog keeps on ticking. Also I’m grateful that this old body I inhabit can keep up with him: we are perfectly matched in pace these days, and equally easy to please.

Lilacs

I’m grateful this time of year for lilacs, for their various colors, their feeding of bees, their intoxicating scent. Some years I can smell them from the other side of the house in late afternoon. Not this year, tough, their blooms are sparse. Maybe the buds froze in the last frost, or maybe the pre-buds were damaged by The Big Freeze last fall, the one that killed the almond tree, and it looks like the peach tree may not make it, either. Grateful that the lilacs survived! I make a point to walk that side of the house several times a day even when I don’t need to, just so I can stop and inhale deeply of the flowers: my head tingles from the inside, like a jump into Suzi’s pond invigorates the skin. I feel cleansed breathing lilac air.

I’m also grateful for the dainty, brilliant carpet of the tiniest penstemon, Penstemon caespitosus, the mat penstemon.
And I’m grateful for this handsome beast who’s lived here for the past 20 years, roaming the yard freely during summer, snoozing his way through winters. Biko is a captive-hatched leopard tortoise I got when he was one year old and didn’t quite fill the palm of my hand. Biko is the Keeper of Slow Time here at Mirador, the pace of his life inspiring to me.

Raven

New flowers planted around Raven’s grave.

A year ago tonight, right around this time, my little Raven dog fell off the couch and never moved again; she died in my arms a couple of hours later. I still don’t know what killed her. It could have been a heart attack, stroke, or some toxin she ingested. She lived through her mouth and was forever eating things she shouldn’t. Like an entire loaf of poppyseed bread off the counter in two minutes. Like half the book club cake off the table. Like, maybe a handful of small green seed potatoes that may have resulted in solanine poisoning, but I’ll never know. It happened fast, and peacefully.

The next morning I buried her in the garden, deepening a hole she had dug under a sagebrush. Yesterday I pulled a few weeds from around the stones on top, and planted some violas and a columbine. I’m grateful she essentially dug her own grave, so I didn’t have to. I’m grateful that beautiful, smart, mischievous dog came from Dog World to live with me when she was six weeks old, and made me laugh and cry for almost fourteen years. I’m grateful that after all that (fleeting) time, after her many dramatic veterinary events, her life ended in quiet two-hour cuddle instead of some awful, bloody, tragic spectacle and/or a frantic trip to the vet. I’m just grateful for Raven.

Raven resting on the day she arrived at my house. Chris flew her across the country and I picked them up in Denver in mid-July, 2006. She was six weeks old. Have you ever seen anything cuter?
Raven at a year-and-a-half old, meeting the love of her life, her baby brother Stellar.
Raven in her prime at eight.
Raven a few months before her end, at Ice Canyon with Stellar.

Losing Myself

Stellar, Topaz and I went for a long, slow walk this morning, stepping off the beaten path onto a trail we’ve – well, I’ve – never walked on before. They may have, and certainly plenty of wild creatures who blazed it. I turned to look back, and if I hadn’t known where I was I’d have been lost: same trees, different angle, it was a new place. I love losing myself in these woods, am grateful that for all the years I’ve lived here I can still wander aimlessly, stop, and not know where I am – for at least a few seconds, and sometimes several minutes. It’s comforting to belong to something larger and more mysterious than me.

Another view of trees I’ve never seen from exactly this angle.

We wandered for half an hour, slower and slower. We slowed until we stopped in silence, and simply stood still. After awhile I heard a soft tap-tap high above. I looked up to see a brilliant white-breasted nuthatch looking down at us from the top of a juniper snag, his head cocked. Then he went back to tapping the dead wood for food. Eventually he flew to another tree.

Topaz indulged me, and her own interests, by hopping up on this beautiful down tree.

Then I caught the faint but unmistakable whiff of smoke. It was too warm for anyone to have an inside fire going, and I couldn’t see the horizon for the trees surrounding us. It was time for coffee anyway, so we turned for home. I’m grateful I could text a neighbor with a view to find out that there was no obvious plume nearby. She said the sky was hazy to the west, and we assumed it was the usual clearing fields with fire or burning ditches that happens every spring. It was the first day in many that it wasn’t too windy to burn, though still exceptionally – dangerously – dry.

We continued slowly toward home on narrow deer trails rarely traversed by our ten feet (or at least my two), and suddenly found ourselves in front of the Triangle Tree. I knew when I discovered it last fall that one day I’d find it in just the right light, and here it was! From this angle, it looks like a majestic old juniper in full sun.

And from another side it looks like a completely different tree.
From between those two sides, one light and one dark, you get a sense of its full shape.

After spending some time savoring the Triangle Tree, we ambled on home and went straight to the pond for Stellar to drink. By then it was already 70ยบ and he was panting heavily after his relaxing exertions. Well, I was relaxed, after waking with a head full of unruly thoughts which got swept away by the wonder of losing myself in the woods. At the pond, I was grateful to see the first northern leopard frog of this season, a big fat female in the curly rushes.

And while the coffee brewed, I took the seedlings outside for their first ever ten minutes of real sun. I think they were grateful. I was grateful to see them looking robust and happy, before I gave them a good drink and put them back under the lights of the grow table. I’m grateful for another splendid day that started off with an hour of joyful adventures even before the first cup of coffee.