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Wren, Again

I’m grateful for the garden, as always; the bulbing fennel continues to plump up in the perfect combination of early light and late shade.
In the right light my friend Deb’s house glows a mile away as if floodlit.

This evening we stepped outside for sunset. The light was that spectacular low, late light after rain, sun slicing along the horizon under a heavy blanket of stratus clouds, air crystalline cool after a long drizzly day. I’m grateful for this wet respite, and grateful for the spectacle of sunset.

As I stood at the west fenceline snapping images, Wren sat and trembled at my left heel, watching horses in the pasture beyond, itching to investigate them. I lost myself for a moment in the clouds and light. When I turned for her Wren had disappeared. I’ve learned not to panic and yell, because she’s never far and she comes instantaneously when called. I’ve never had a dog like that. Even wonderful Stellar took a few seconds to lug his big beautiful body my way. Wren turns on a dime and goes into warp drive when I whistle or call even softly. So I looked around close, and then farther away.

I felt a frisson of fear when I saw those two big white rogue dogs I lost my hearing over, trotting single file through the woods fifty feet away, heading south toward their home, oblivious to me. Then they moved into a lope, and behind them ran my fierce little watchdog chasing them out of her territory! I laughed aloud as they picked up their pace, and when I whistled she turned and sped over to me, so proud of herself.

I’m grateful for Wren, again today. She is full of surprises.
I don’t even remember the name of this perennial I planted so many years ago, but this is the best it’s ever looked. I’m grateful for red flowers.

Spotted Fawns

I’m grateful I was able to spend most of the morning in the garden, replenishing tattered prayer flags, potting up some seedlings, pulling a few weeds, and generally appreciating the beauty of the growing things. I am thrilled with the progress of the bulbing fennel, which grows more lush by the day. In the midst of this joy I took a short break for a phone call, and sat where I could see the south woods. A doe strolled by beyond the yarden fence, and a few seconds later I spotted a quick small creature well behind her. Coyote! I thought, but then came context: another doe followed by two tiny twins. I watched them cross the whole expanse of the south woods from the driveway until they disappeared behind the garden fence, trailing the first doe at a distance. I’m grateful for this minutes-long look at the first spotted fawns of the season. It’s rare to catch more than a fleeting glimpse: Once their mothers spot you the spotted fawns vanish.

We call them ‘spotted fawns’, I guess, because we still call them fawns their first year long after their spots have blended into their lightening coats. When they are newborn and for a month or so after, they have darker brown fur with white spots which makes them disappear into the forest floor like dappled light.

Wren did well with car training again this evening. Her new harness arrived, so even after tightening her strap, even if she could manage to dangle again, it would be by her shoulder girdle and not by her precious neck. With the aid of treats, we moved more quickly from the lap to the seat to driving, and she was a little more relaxed…

Still, when we returned from the mailbox, she was trembling to get out of the car, and let her relief be known with a happy yodel…

After car training, we took a mocktail and some cheese and crackers down to the pond. Wren pointed a doe outside the fence, and I whispered her over to sit beside me for a cheese treat. As we sat quietly, the doe jumped the fence and came to drink at the pond. I could see that she’s nursing. Maybe she is the mother of the twins. I’m grateful to have a water system that makes this pond possible to provide habitat, food, and water to wildlife in this high desert oasis. The deer, I know, are also grateful for this flowing fresh water.

A second doe soon joined the first. Note her swollen teats: she clearly also has a fawn or fawns laying low outside the fence somewhere. Perhaps she is the mother of the twins.
Like the does, I’m grateful for fresh flowing water. I came in for a shower and took a moment to appreciate the beauty of this hot cascade backlit by the setting sun. I am always and deeply grateful for hot running water, for a home with a shower, and a bed to sleep in afterward.

Loving Photography

Nuff said.
My friend Sean made this picture tonight in eastern Washington as it was just beginning to rain. He lay down on the flagstone and called me as he waited for the ground around him to get just wet enough to leave a dry impression of his body. How we met is a funny story for another time, perhaps. But we have a lot of the same interests and photography is one of them. This is not a great photograph. Nor are the images that follow that I shot tonight. But the beauty of loving photography is that it’s not necessarily the resulting image that matters; it’s the making of the image in the moments it’s created that carries the significance and fills the heart.
Early, I wondered if we’d get to see the eclipse here. But clouds cleared as night deepened.

The total lunar eclipse of the full flower supermoon tonight has been captured with super fancy cameras the world over and there’s no image I can add to those that will appear in the news tomorrow. But the joy I derived this evening from sharing life with my friend, then sitting on my deck for hours with a cold martini slowly warming as it waned, and a warm little dog zipped into my sweatshirt and my dear departed mother’s little Audubon Nikon binoculars, acquainting myself with my new husband-camera and his super special lens, at one with crickets and the universe, well… that’s priceless.

Loving

Loving may be the healthiest thing we can do. It doesn’t matter so much who or what we love, but that we engage our hearts in connection with other living beings. I love my crabapple tree, and make time to appreciate it every day that it’s in bloom, and as its petals fade and blow off in these planetary winds, settling on top of the pond; and I pay attention to it through its fruit growing cycle, and as its leaves turn in autumn, and as they fall off toward winter.

I love this new little dog, and feel tenderness when I see her fall asleep in the sun while I sit under the crabapple tree sipping morning coffee. I found the original shelter she came from in New Mexico on Facebook, and messaged them to find out more about her. No wonder she’s so well-behaved. She wasn’t a stray, she was an owner surrender: she came from a family with children and cats, but there was another baby on the way and the mother couldn’t manage it all. I look at Wren sometimes and think, How could anyone give up this little dog? And then I remember something I heard the other day: a friend said, “Any time I think of someone How could you do that…?, the Universe eventually says, Lemme show you….” When we judge others for their choices, we often find ourselves before long in a similar situation making similar choices that we never thought we would or could. Roe v. Wade comes to mind…

So instead of wondering how someone could have given up this precious little being, I asked the shelter to please let that woman know, if they had the opportunity, that her dog has found a safe and happy forever home, where she is making an old lady a wonderful companion. She jumps up from her pink princess bed to follow me every time I go outside, and feels safe enough now to explore the yard on her own, but she comes running whenever I call her. She’s progressing well in her turtle-hunting training, and investigates the compost bins more frequently than is strictly necessary.

This evening, in the weird yellow-grey light of dusty-windy sunset, she followed me into the lilac pen, where we circled the blooming shrubs just wishing the phone could capture the heady aroma as well as the shifting colors. This year lilac flowers are profuse, though still fleeting. I make time multiple times each day to spend attention on the lilacs, loving these shrubs in this brief, abundant, drunken season.

This Week in Tiny Lives

Her name is Wren. It came to me last week as I pondered “Ready,” which she responded to, and “Fen,” which I kind of liked better. Then those two merged into Wren, a sweet, delicate, little brown bird. Wrennie. She doesn’t know it starts with a different letter than Ready, and she came to it immediately; maybe thinking I’d developed a sudden speech impediment with that middle consonant.

Then, several people said, “Oh, like Ren and Stimpy?” What’s that? I had no idea there was a cartoon about some revolting creatures called “Ren, an emotionally unstable and sociopathic Chihuahua; and Stimpy, a good-natured yet dimwitted cat.” So no, NOT like that Ren; like a canyon wren, or a house wren, or a Carolina wren…

In the woods, May is the blooming month. Lots of little lives burgeoning.

Topaz is adapting to walks with Wren, and continues to examine the kittens from a few feet away now and then, but mostly just continues to live her prima donna life, going about her routine with her pretty little nose in the air.
Wren is fascinated with the kittens, as they are with her. When I open the crate to bring them out to eat, she is right there, and helps corral them as they scatter.
After his setback, Smokey went back on the bottle for a few days, but is now eating a slurry of canned kitten food mixed with formula.

Little Tigger fluctuated between eating well and gaining a bit, then losing weight. Last Wednesday he seemed listless. We had an appointment with a vet for the next day, and I had to go to the audiologist that afternoon, so I called a local foster expert, and she suggested giving him straight honey with a syringe. I did that for a couple of doses and he vomited after each dose. I cut back the dose and lengthened the interval and he seemed to keep it down and perk up. That night I offered him the food/formula slurry and he ate it well. Thursday morning he ate well again. I took them all to the vet with some stool samples, and the diagnosis was that he was “loaded with parasites.” He was also tested for FIV, and fortunately was negative. They gave him subcutaneous fluids to hydrate him. All three kittens were dosed for parasites, and we were sent home with medicine to administer daily for a week.

Tigger ate well Thursday and Friday, cleaning his own bowl and finishing off Smokey’s when he left some in it. I was so relieved to have him sorted out and on the mend. This morning, when I came down at seven, he lay limp in the corner as his brothers climbed and called for breakfast. I set them in their boxes with food, and picked up the tiny boy. It was clear to me that he was dying. I cradled him in my shirt and sang to him. He lay there, softly ticking… I thought it was a death rattle. After awhile, it dawned on me that it was a slow-motion purr.

I remembered Foster Friend telling about holding a dying puppy on her chest overnight, dosing it with honey, and how it came back to life. I thought about dehydration. I mixed a little water with maple syrup, and began to drip little bits into his mouth. He swallowed, his eyes brightened; I thought either I was prolonging his agony or I was reviving him. When I saw him lick his paw, I committed to the revival story. For the next few hours I gave him intermittent drips of fluid. He meowed a few times, yowled a few times, rested quietly, swallowed more, looked up at me… As I meditated and then talked with friends on zoom, he got very quiet and still. By the end of our conversation he was dead. I wrapped him in a cotton square, and buried him in the garden with Stellar.

I felt sad. I’m grateful for the skill of equanimity. Through the morning I kept things in perspective. Even as he lay warm and loved against my heart, there were thousands of kittens around the world dying of parasites in awful surroundings; there were human babies suffering malnutrition, neglect, and worse; there were species going extinct, and wars ravaging lives and cultures; there were politicians lying and corporations conniving; there were good people dropping dead in the prime of their life, and a pandemic surging again with a new, even more contagious variant. In a world of suffering, I loved a tiny kitten through his short little life and his inevitable death. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

Meanwhile, more little lives continue sprouting in the garden. The first potato leaves emerge from mulch as tiny peach buds open. I turn my attention to the ample beauty and life that remains to be nurtured as the garden rollercoaster ramps up…

Orange tulips gladden the end of a raised bed…
…and the crabapple tree glows gloriously.

Resurrection

Male and female evening grosbeaks and house finches flocking together rested in the top of the birch tree the other morning.

It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter, did I mention that before? I had a lot of recovering to do from the drawn-out demise of Stellar, which was physically and emotionally grueling; and actually quite a bit of settling into a new normal without some of my closest friends who also died over the past two summers, from Ojo to Auntie to Michael and more. This spring does feel a bit like a resurrection for me, and what better day to acknowledge that than Easter Sunday?

Looming larger these days in the back of my mind is how will Topaz receive a new addition to the household? I am pretty much ready for a dog!

I pulled out the new husband-camera which has also lain dormant all winter, and realized I had no idea how to use it, so I also pulled out the manual and spent some hours today figuring out all the knobs and buttons — most of the bells and whistles will have to wait for another day. I haven’t even attached the ‘good’ lens yet but still got some pretty pictures. The two nights of deep freeze last week did not destroy all chance of apricots this year, at least up on this mesa. The tree was loaded with buds, and while most of them had just opened before the freeze and are now toast, it seems that many unopened buds survived and are blooming in this next round of balmy weather. I hope that the valley orchards fared as well.

It was this Mourning Cloak who arrived yesterday that inspired me to bring out the big camera and get ready to wallow in my favorite pastime again. Last year, the ‘good’ lens lost its auto-focus and would have cost a lot to repair. So I dove in headfirst and sprung for a camera upgrade and two new lenses. It helped a lot that I could trade in the old husband and all his lenses at B&H Photo, my go-to AV store in NYC. They offer great help over the phone, and reliable goods and shipping.
While I waited for the butterfly to come in range of my seat on the bench, I missed a bumblebee but got a mediocre snap of a honeybee. There were just a few other small native bees buzzing around; maybe because it was windy, and is still kind of cold at night… or maybe because there are fewer bees even than last year. The loss of the almond tree last year has cut their spring smorgasbord sadly in half.
Not many native pollinators seem to care for forsythia, but this western yellow-jacket was enjoying having it all to itself.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

Albert Schweitzer

The Mindful Life Community daily guidance this morning brought suddenly and vividly to mind the journalism teacher in high school, Dottie Olin, who became a lifelong friend. She inspired me then, and I became editor of the paper. For three decades we stayed in touch, visited when I was in town, and her joie de vivre and boundless joy in life grounded me in unstable times. I was grateful to visit her often during the months I lived in Virginia while my mother was dying, and we became even closer. She continued to inspire and support me well into her 80s. Shortly after my mom died and I moved back home to Colorado, I got a note that she was dying of lung cancer. She said, “It’s nobody’s fault but my own,” as she had smoked all her life. She was at peace because she had lived fully and with so much love. I was devastated to lose her as well as my mom in the same year, 2004. I hadn’t thought about her recently, and love that she came to mind so vibrantly as someone who lighted a fire in me and rekindled it through the years. Just the thought of her this morning lifted my energy and got me outside and moving around in the garden, motivated to make the most of this beautiful spring day, this precious day that will never come again.

This Week in the Garden

Birds return. This is the first evening grosbeak I’ve seen here in decades. Neighbors with feeders have flocks of them. My feeder tree used to regularly host black-headed grosbeaks, but even then the evenings were rare. He squawked his plaintive question a few times before flying off. I was grateful I happened to be outside as he was passing through. Also this past week, the first robin lit in the budding apricot tree, and last Saturday, joy of joys, a phoebe sang his descending syllable seductively from treetops. He’s flown afield seeking his mate, but I’m sure he’ll return.

After watching a video I can’t find again on economically filling a new raised bed, I started with a layer of punky aspen someone delivered a few years ago. Light as balsa wood, these ‘logs’ weren’t fit to burn, but laying them into the bottom of the raised bed provides bulk that will decompose over years. On top of the wood, a layer of fine wood chips, and on top of that some old pots’ worth of soil. Good organic growing soil will fill the top 8-10 inches for planting. As years go by, I’ll amend the top as the bottom materials break down.

This ‘potato bin’ seemed like a great idea years ago when I bought it, but I didn’t understand potato cultivation back then and ‘it’ failed. After increasing success with potatoes the past couple of years, I think I know what I’m doing with it this year. We’ll know more later!

Garden Buddy shared a video and some sweet potatoes, and we’re both experimenting with rooting organic sweet potatoes to grow slips to plant, in hopes of a harvest. This distinctly southern tuber may not grow well here, but we just like to experiment with all kinds of things.

Above, raised beds amended and fluffed are ready for planting. Below, perennial onions are already providing scallions.

Organic straw is hard to come by these days. Any straw that hasn’t been sprayed and labeled ‘weed-free’ is hard to find. I love to mulch with straw, but mulching with straw that’s been treated with herbicides doesn’t make any sense to me. I think it’s one reason my earliest gardens failed to thrive: I failed to question what certified weed-free signified. Duh, of course it’s been sprayed! So this year I’m trying sawmill waste that GB located. I hope these fine, lightweight wood shavings will have essentially the same effect. Peas are already planted along both sides of the trellis here, and a few of last year’s kales that came up and had to be lifted were transplanted to the center where when peas climb the trellis the kale will have shade. It’s all trial and error, live and learn, curiosity and equanimity.

Tulips and giant crocus coming up from last year.

Onions, fennel, leeks and snapdragons coming along under lights; a new pot of eggplants just sown, as well as a ginger experiment. Below, the tray of pepper seedlings almost all sprouted.

Here at Mirador, we are all grateful for the big thaw, for the little rains, and so far for abundant sunshine. Does come less frequently to pillage the yard as fields green with variety far and wide. Birds sing outside, Biko has emerged from torpor and spends most days in his round pen basking and grazing, Topaz demands a walk every day; the promise of spring wakens this dormant body as well. Emerging from my own shell, spending more time outside, I find myself missing a dog more than before. It is almost time. Speaking of dogs…

Little Topaz sitting with me, and dear Stellar’s mortal remains, in the garden. His favorite spot in life turns out to be an ideal shady place for a chair and table, protected from the strong spring winds, with a comprehensive view of the whole fenced garden. A peaceful place to rest between joyful efforts.

While I don’t feel the need to defend owning a gun, I do feel inclined here to respond to a little pushback about the shooting blog. First, numerous people in the neighborhood, including me, have asked the owners of those bad dogs to contain them, to no avail. The sheriff has been called on those dogs, to no avail. So attempting to scare them back home with a couple of shots was in no way rash or unreasonable. Second, in this county as in much of the west, it is legal to shoot to kill a dog who is harassing wildlife or livestock. It’s not uncommon, and while I may not agree with that law, I understand it. Anyone who knows me knows how dear dogs are to me, and knows I wouldn’t have hurt those bad dogs. And now you know it, too! May all beings be free from suffering, including the bad dogs and their careless, overwhelmed owners.

Hargila

“Hargila,” the greater adjutant stork, feeding in a garbage dump. Image attributed to netzfrauen.org.

This half-hour film is mind-blowing in many ways. Shot by a Cornell Lab of Ornithology photographer in Dardala, India, where half the world’s population of endangered greater adjutant stork supports its growing population by scavenging the dump alongside humans, the film celebrates the conservation efforts of one woman who changed a culture’s relationship with this prehistoric bird. The film came to me courtesy of KarmaTube.org in a weekly newsletter that I recommend for inspiring stories, along with kindspring.org which features accounts of kindness.

Kindness has always mattered to me, as much as honesty, compassion, and gratitude. I was never that great at any of them, but have always appreciated and valued them above all. Traits to aspire to. I’m mulling over what the next blog project will focus on; kindness is an option, or letting go. I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore these ideals and practice them to the best of my limited abilities. I’m grateful for the inspiring efforts of people all over the world who are doing what they love and making the world a better place as they do, and I’m grateful I took the time tonight to learn about the Hargila.

Putting Away Christmas

Cousin Bill joked about how different it felt to put his Christmas decorations away at the end of January than at his habitual New Year’s ritual… It wasn’t too soon, or too late, it was just the right time. That’s how I feel. Even later, though, I’m putting away Christmas in the middle of February. It’s the longest I’ve gone. Much as I love the ancestral decorations (and a handful of new acquired over my lifeline) I’ve put away Christmas pretty late for years, grateful for implicit luxuries, but always by the end of January. At least that’s how I remember it.

I may not get very far tonight, I’m reminiscing, communing with my little things. Catherine Ingram counsels us to love who we love, and love our lives, and love our little things. Garden Buddy mentioned that very thing this afternoon in the context of what brings us joy. We sat in her garden of stone-rimmed beds and yard art, sharing a brief cloudy interlude in an otherwise balmy day. We are both growing weary of enforced hermitude, yet are not eager to relinquish it, skeptical of the alternatives.

Garden seeds arrived! A sigh of relief, winter’s end’s in sight. It’s been a strange one, as have most recent seasons. Case in point: The shower drain hasn’t come close to freezing this winter (a good thing), but this is the second scorpion who’s climbed up out of the tub drain. Itsy-bitsy spider only this time it’s scorpions the rain washes out. Spiders have free reign in my house, they do such good eating flies, and most of the widows stay outside. But this scorpion has to go right back where it came from, back to the leaf litter under the birch tree. It’s much milder outside this year, and also drier, than what used to be normal. Even as it’s been a colder winter inside, but longer sun in a rising arc warms the house earlier each day, and I have enough power now to run the floor heat while it’s sunny. So life’s gotten a little easier.

I’m grateful for this littler orange scraper, which has also makes life easier. It’s come in handy for a lot of things, but most of all for finally solving this kitchen dilemma. For years it mystified and aggravated me why the artisan who built the copper counter didn’t finish it with a rollover edge, instead crafting a lovely rim a half inch higher than the surface. This makes it impossible to sweep crumbs off into a hand or compost bucket. A similar glitch was built into the edge of the sunroom pond by a different artist, this an unchinked valley between the wall and the stone floor, leaving a ragged stripe of concrete foundation showing. I asked that fellow many years later why he’d done that, it makes it so hard to sweep or vacuum the dirt up.

“So you wouldn’t have to,” he said sparkling with logic, “because it would collect in the crack.” Had the cabinet maker brought similar reasoning to the raised counter rim? Both ‘solutions’ make it far more complicated to clean: a woman would never have designed these features.

Speaking of crumbs on the counter, these lemon shortbreads were worth the wait for butter for the glaze. So delicate and lightly tart and softly sweet. I’ve been grateful today for sharing them, too; and for kindnesses and compassions that have come my way, softening the rocky inward trail.

Birthday Week

Just a few highlights from my birthday week. I’m grateful for another turn around the sun, and for all the loving good wishes that came my way. I worked through the whole weekend, but paused frequently to appreciate the uncanny, glorious days, and a handful of visitors who dropped by with cards and gifts. A gorgeous bouquet was delivered Friday, Saturday brought earrings, a lemon tart, and a plate of hors d’oeuvres ready to cook. Various balms, candles, candies, and other goodies arrived over the next days in the mail or in person. I feel truly blessed to be so cared for. “Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”

I’ve been hoarding my Christmas grapefruit, but have been promised another shipment for my birthday, and so indulged in the last of them. Amy told me how to ‘supreme’ a grapefruit and it sounded like a lot of trouble and a waste of fruit, but I tried it, and (except for a little nick of a finger) it is by far the best way I’ve found to get the most fruit, juice and enjoyment out of a grapefruit.

Little cat, big cat, walking in the snow… I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m grateful to live where there are lions. It’s been a couple years since I’ve seen sign of one, so it was a thrill to come across a line of tracks.

Last night I went out to turn off the generator, and there was a huge moondog. As I stood marveling at it, I heard coyotes northeast of the house along the canyon. I haven’t heard them like that for years. There was a pack, singing like their little hearts were full. They would sing a round, then the dogs across the canyon would bark, and I’d hear the reverb of all those dogs roll up the canyon and stop when it hit the end. It was magnificent. It was just one grand thing after another all week long.